By Jo Cooksey
Last week I was invited to the TV chef’s new’ish Cheshire restaurant to sample the new Spring/Summer menu. Excitingly, Gino himself was to be hosting the event. So, despite a painful incident with a Jack Russell and a Hot Cross bun, resulting in a torn ligament, I hobbled over to the Cheshire village.
Luciano’s building has had many guises over the years. From Brasingamen’s to its previous incarnation, Piccalino’s. Most of which I have sampled. Heck I even remember when it was part of a nightclub called Sidings, where I misspent some of my youth in the 80’s. We were welcomed with new seasonal cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic before being shown through to the smaller dining room.
Gino explained that the ethos of the food is to give diners a truly Italian experience and that a lot of the ingredients are sourced directly from Italy and his beloved Sardinia. In order to give us a good feel for the new menu we were served six taster courses.
Half A Dozen Tasters
As each course was served Gino gave us the background and rationale of the dish. A lot of inspiration comes from his Italian childhood and the food he ate growing up, including the first dish, a Tagleggio & Pea Arancine. With its crispy, deep fried shell of breadcrumbs and creamy, rice filled interior and pops of freshness from the peas and earthiness of saffron, it was perfection.
The second course was possibly the pièce de résistance. A Courgette Flower Fritti filled with ricotta and lemon, dipped in a light batter and fried before being drizzled with Sardinian honey. A notoriously difficult and labour intensive dish, that Gino confessed is actually a loss leader but one he insisted is on the menu as it is a personal favourite of his. I have to say it is now a favourite of mine and one I would never attempt at home. As the novelist Shirley Conran once said, ‘Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.’ The same could be said of me stuffing a courgette flower, so I will happily order them at Luciano.
Next up was a Salmon & Avocado Tartare. Made using salmon fillet and smoked salmon with lemon, dill and capers. Served with a wafer thin, crispy Italian bread. Guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
Of course, an Italian menu wouldn’t be complete without pasta and what a delicious dish we were served. Rocket & Ricotta Tortelloni with Sage Butter and Toasted Pine Nuts. An excellent choice to fulfil one’s pasta cravings.
The main course was a true taste of Spring. Sweet and tender Rack of Lamb cooked pink and served with fresh peas and smoked pancetta. Again, this was another D’Acampo childhood fave that is cooked just like Mama used to. You can ask for the lamb to be well done if pink is not to your taste but beware Mama D’Acampo may turn up with her pasta rolling pin if you do.
The final course was dessert and as I am not a fan of chocolate, this would not be my choice. However, I know plenty of others who would appreciate it. It was a take on the on the Neapolitan pizza fritta. Not the flat type, as we know it today but the filled and sealed pizza dough parcel that was deep fried and sold as street food. Ours were profiterole shaped, filled with sweetened mascarpone and draped with Nutella and topped with a caramelised piece of banana and toasted hazelnuts.
Gino was his usual ‘cheeky chappy’ self and kept us amused with anecdotes. He also told us about some of his upcoming TV projects including a new dating show, which naturally involves cooking, called Cooking Up Love with Gino. He is spending the next few months at his house in Sardinia but don’t fret fans of This Morning, he will be filming segments from there to go out on the popular daytime show. He said he also hoped to invite Phil and Holly over. There will also be a new series of Gino’s Italian Escape and much to my delight a Gordon, Fred and Gino Christmas special to be filmed in New York. I wonder how many times Gino can get naked in the city that never sleeps without being arrested? I did ask him if Gino’s Italian Family Adventure would return, but due to a Summer exam schedule for his children, this wasn’t on the cards. He did, however, send us home with a copy of the book of the series, which I shall happily be delving in to.
Would We Return?
Certainly. My parents live up the road in Wilmslow and my best friend in nearby Macclesfield, so I can see us having quite a few meals there. If the sun is out and the conservatory roof has been retracted or there is a free outdoor table available, even better.
The new menu will be available from Thursday 7th April and you will find many other gems included in it.
We were gifted our food and drink, but thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.